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Trump Allows Formal Transition To Biden Presidency To Begin


President Trump tonight is allowing the formal transition to the Biden presidency to begin. Trump is not actually conceding that he lost the election, but the president tweeted that he's instructing his administration to, quote, "do what needs to be done with regard to initial protocols." What that appears to mean in practice is that 20 days since the election ended and more than two weeks since Joe Biden's victory became clear, the General Services Administration is recognizing that President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris won the election. That means their team will get resources and access to begin the process of taking over federal agencies.

NPR's Ayesha Rascoe covers the White House and joins us now. Ayesha, this came as news in a tweet, right? What else did the president have to say?

AYESHA RASCOE, BYLINE: Well, you know, as you mentioned, he did not concede. He said that the fight continues, they're going to keep up and that they believe - or he says he believes he will prevail. Of course, he has been saying that, but now you have this formal process beginning. And he says that - he makes this point that he directed GSA to begin, you know, cooperating with these initial protocols or basically cooperating with the transition, which is interesting because you have the head of GSA, Emily Murphy, who's come under a lot of pressure for not - for holding off on making this determination that Biden was the apparent winner.

And she - in a letter to Biden, she defended herself, saying that contrary to media reports and insinuations, my - quote, "my decision was not made out of fear or favoritism." And she makes this argument that she came to this decision independently. But, of course, you also have Trump basically saying that he is directing it. So, you know, as has been the case throughout the Trump administration, once again, you have conflicting narratives coming out of the Trump administration. But either way, the bottom line is the same. The transition can officially begin.

CORNISH: Give us a little more context for this. You know, over the last couple of days, what kind of pressure has been building on the White House?

RASCOE: Well, the White - this comes as the White House is really - you know, the walls are kind of closing in on President Trump when it comes to this holding out and trying to fight the outcome of the election. He has - they've - he's filed a number of court cases. Pretty much all of them have been thrown out, or the vast majority of them have been thrown out. And some of them - you know, in very strong language in Pennsylvania, he has been ruled against with the judge, a federal judge in Pennsylvania basically saying that this is not - they don't have a case.

You have Michigan certifying its election results today. Pennsylvania is moving ahead. And then you had Republican senators slowly but surely coming out and saying, you know, even as they say they support President Trump, saying that it is time to try to move on. You had Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander reminding the president in a statement that you will be remembered for what you do last. And you had Ohio Senator Rob Portman, who will be up for reelection in 2022, saying that, you know, he supports the president, but right now it looks likely that Joe Biden will become the next president, so it's time to begin the transition process so that the transition is seamless.

CORNISH: And what will that look like? What does this change?

RASCOE: It means money, support and that they can go in and talk to these federal agencies. The transition team can go in and talk to federal officials to really begin the process of preparing for governance.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Ayesha Rascoe.

Thanks so much.

RASCOE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.